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The story behind The Alan Turing Law

This pride month, we want to celebrate one of the most remarkable figures of WW2, Alan Turing. 

Alan Turing’s work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park played a significant role in the Allied victory in the Second World War and was likely to have shortened the war, saving countless lives. Turing invented an early prototype of a computer and is considered the father of artificial intelligence. His development of the “Turing Test,” and his work on the question of whether it is possible for a machine to think, have profoundly affected AI today. Although his impact on computer science was widely acknowledged, it wasn’t until the 1990s that his role in cracking the Enigma code was revealed. 

Sadly, the life of this remarkable scientist was marred by tragedy and injustice. 

In 1952, Turing began a relationship with Arnold Murray. After one of Murray’s friends robbed Turing’s home, Turing reported the crime to the police. During the investigation, Turing admitted that his relationship with Murray was sexual. At the time, homosexuality was illegal and both men were arrested and charged with “gross indecency.” Turning pled guilty and was given the choice of a prison term, or probation and chemical castration. He chose the latter and was given hormones to render him impotent and reduce his libido. As a result of his conviction, he lost his security clearance and was barred from any further work in British cryptography. 

A little over two years after his conviction and chemical castration, Turing tragically died of cyanide poisoning – later ruled as suicide. 

In 2009, over 50 years after Turing’s death, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown formally apologized on behalf of the British government for the appalling treatment of Alan Turing. In August 2014, Queen Elizabeth II officially pardoned him. In 2021, Alan Turin’s portrait was added to the £50 note.  

Under a bill passed by parliament in 2017 and known informally as the “Alan Turing Law,” about 49,000 men convicted of homosexual conduct have been pardoned.  

To find out more about Erskine’s work please visit our website at www.erskine.org.uk, follow on twitter @Erskine Charity via Facebook www.facebook.com/ErskineVeteransCharity or listen to Erskine Veterans Radio at Erskine.org.uk/radio or Paisley 107.5 FM

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